Washington, DC -- (ReleaseWire) -- 10/05/2016 --DAWN BENNETT: John Lott is an economist, political commentator and gun rights advocate. He is also a founder and president of the Crime Prevention Research Center. John has a new book out, The War on Guns: Arming Yourself Against Gun Control Lies, which reveals some fascinating facts that we're going to talk about. The first is that the book explains how the current background check system discriminates against law-abiding blacks and Hispanics, preventing them from being able to own guns. The second is that increased gun ownership by civilians lowers the rate of police officer deaths. The third is that it explains how gun-free zones actually attract criminals and mass public shooters. John, welcome to Financial Myth Busting.
JOHN LOTT: Thanks very much for having me on.
BENNETT: You've written a lot about how it seems that most mass shootings occur in gun-free zones. But is that just a coincidence? Do you think that these killers actually seek out places where these victims will be unarmed or are there just more malls and movie theaters these days considered gun-free?
LOTT: Well, the vast majority of malls and movie theaters allow people to have permitted concealed handguns in them. You know, it's a very small percentage that don't, yet all the attacks seem to be occurring in those places. There's different types of evidence that we have on this. One is just simply the statements from these mass killers when they're available. We don't have this information all the time, but sometimes we do. So for example, this spring in Detroit, a father was concerned about his son's involvement in ISIS, had informed the FBI, who put a tap on the phone, and they have a chilling conversation that they recorded where he was explaining his plans to attack one of the largest churches in the Detroit area. And his number one reason for picking this church was that church had banned anybody from having permitted concealed handguns on church property. You have cases like the Charleston church shooting. His first target actually was going to be Charleston College until he'd investigated and seen the armed security that they have there. You have the diary from the Batman movie theater shooter that was released last year. In that case, his first target was going to be an airport, but when he checked and saw the amount of armed security he was concerned that he would be killed before he was able to go and kill many of the victims that he wanted to go after. In that case there were seven movie theaters within a 20-minute drive of his apartment. Only one of those movie theaters posted signs banning permitted concealed handguns. That's the one he went to. Not the one that was closest to his home or the one that's advertising itself prominently as having the largest auditoriums in the State of Colorado. He went to the only one where victims weren't' able to defend themselves.
BENNETT: This is fascinating.
LOTT: And then you have other cases, recent cases. You have the Santa Barbara killer. There, in that case, if you read his 141-page manifesto, he goes through excruciating detail about trying to pick the right venue to go on attack. His first choice had been spring break. Apparently, spring break in Santa Barbara is the hot spot for spring break for students from the western U.S. He had gone and done a lot of research, gone to the local library, viewed old local TV station footage of the events in the past and seen the number of armed police that they had around there. He wrote down that there was no way he was going to be able to kill all the police before they killed him so he wasn't going to be able to go and shoot the students that he wanted to go and shoot. But if you look at, just generally, mall shootings, for instance the Omaha, Nebraska mall shooting in 2007, there were eight enclosed malls in the city there and only one posted signs banning permitted concealed handguns. It just happened to be the mall that was farthest from the killer's home, yet that's the one he went to. Same type of story for the Kansas City mall shooting; same type of story for the Salt Lake City and Portland, Oregon mall shootings. You know, at some point, one would just think this can't be random. You know, generally, if you live in a state that's a right-to-carry state, you can carry your gun pretty much anyplace in the state. There may be a few percent of the places that you're banned from being able to go and carry it. So if these attacks were random, 98-99 percent of the attacks would be taking place in areas where people were allowed to have guns. Instead, they keep on occurring time after time in those tiny areas within the state where people aren't allowed to defend themselves.
BENNETT: It often seems like the emphasis from Washington is passing a gun law, any law, just so that they can say that they've done something, even if it would have made no difference whatsoever in the most recent tragedy. One area where there seems to be some popular support is with increasing national background checks. Is there any reason not to support this?
LOTT: Everybody wants to try to keep criminals and bad guys from getting guns. You know, the problem that you have here, as you say, is it would be nice if the president, who has spoken in favor of this type of law after every single mass public shooting that he's spoken on, would be able to go and point to one of the cases during his administration or years earlier that would have made a difference, because it simply wouldn't have affected anything. He's using these tragedies to push a law that has nothing to do with the attacks that we all want to stop. The problem is these background checks that we have are a complete mess and it would be nice if somebody tried to fix them. For example, we often hear that 2.4 million dangerous or prohibited people have been stopped from buying guns because of background checks. That's simply false. What they should say is that there have been 2.4 million initial denials. There's a huge difference there. I'll just give you a simple example: you may remember the late senator Ted Kennedy—there were five times where he was stopped from flying on a plane because his name was similar to someone whose name was on the no-fly list. I assume even the President or Hillary Clinton wouldn't count that as 'five time we stopped terrorists from flying', but that's essentially the way they're counting them when they talk about this 2.4 million. It's one thing to stop a felon from buying a gun; it's another thing to stop someone, simply because they have a name similar to a felon, from buying a gun. And the problem is that virtually all—we don't know the exact number but something around 99 percent of this 2.4 million—were mistakes, law-abiding citizens who should've been able to buy a gun but were stopped simply because they had a name similar to someone that we wanted to stop. There's no reason why the government has to make these mistakes. Private companies do background checks on employees all the time. If they had an error rate that was 1/100 the error rate that the federal government has in these background checks they'd be sued out of existence. But there's a simple reason why private companies don't do it and that is they use more information in conducting the background check. When you buy a gun you fill out what's called a 4473 Form where you put down your name, your social security number, your address and your birthday. Private companies use all that information when they do a background check. The government, even though it has that information, the only things they use is roughly similar names. So you can have a completely different middle name, your name can be spelled completely differently—it's just that it has to phonetically sound similar. So you can have a John B. Smith and John C. Smyth where Smith is spelled with a Y or an I in the two different cases and they would come up as flagging that person as having a similar name. And then they just use the birth date to differentiate, they don't use social security numbers or addresses. And as you mentioned, this creates a particular problem for minorities because people tend to have names similar to others in their racial group. Like, 40 percent of Vietnamese in the United States have the same last name; Hispanics have names similar to other Hispanics; blacks tend to have last names similar to other blacks. 30 percent of black males in the United States are legally forbidden from owning a gun because of past criminal history. Who are they most likely to have their names confused with? Other law-abiding, good black males who want to buy a gun to protect themselves or their families. And as I said, there's no reason why these mistakes should be going on. I've brought this up to gun control advocates for 15 years and they have no desire to fix it. The other thing with these background checks is they're not costless.
BENNETT: Why aren't they fixing it? Why don't they have a desire to fix it?
LOTT: I've come to believe that they view this as a feature almost in the sense that it stops law-abiding citizens from buying guns. And this is even clearer when you look at the fees involved here. When President Obama talks about pushing background checks, he's doing it from DC, and in DC it costs $125 to privately transfer a gun. In some states you can do it for $55, as in Oregon, for example. I'll give you one simple example. In 2013 I got a call from some state legislators in Colorado when they were passing the background check on private transfers and I was asked what amendment would I put up on the Bill. And the one I suggested was to put up an amendment that would exempt people below the poverty level from having to pay the new state tax on transferring guns. When they put that up, with the exception of two pro-gun Democrats in the State House, every other Democrat voted against exempting people below the poverty level. And I can give you other examples from Maryland and places where you've had similar amendments not even be allowed to be voted on. And the question is: How many taxes can you think of where Democrats will fight tooth and nail against exempting people below the poverty level from having to pay? I think it really helps indicate that these people are more concerned about making it costly for law-abiding citizens to buy guns. You know, a $125 fee in D.C. may not stop you or I or the President from being able to go and buy a gun, but for a law-abiding, poor black who lives in a high crime urban area a $125 effective tax may make the difference about whether or not they're legally able to go and defend themselves and their families. You know, I think it just makes it clear that they're more concerned about having the tax there than they are about trying to get these background checks through. If they fix these two things that we've talked about, it would greatly diminish the opposition to these laws. It'd be much easier for them to pass it.
BENNETT: I want to squeeze in a political question here. Donald Trump says that if Hillary Clinton is elected president, Americans can kiss the Second Amendment goodbye. Hillary says that this is nonsense but that she does want to pass new restrictions on gun ownership. How big of an issue do you think the Second Amendment will play come November? I mean, do you think Trump is actually a reliable Second Amendment supporter?
LOTT: Well, all I can say is I think he's right when he's talking about what's at stake here. It's not that Hillary is going to put up an amendment to the Constitution to remove the Second Amendment which is what fact-checkers seem to focus on. The point is who gets appointed to the Supreme Court. We've had a couple recent Supreme Court decisions—one struck down Washington, DC's gun ban, for example. They had an outright ban of all handguns and effectively banned other guns being used. You could technically own a long gun but if you actually put a bullet in the chamber of a rifle it was a felony punished by 5 years in prison, so the Supreme Court said, 'Look, effectively no one who lives in DC is able to use any type of gun in self-defense,' and they said that goes too far and they struck it down. That was just a 5 to 4 decision, and the author of that, Antonin Scalia, died earlier this year. So right now, the Supreme Court is very closely divided. Whoever wins the presidency is going to determine whether that precedent stays in place or not. You know, it's not just places like DC or Chicago which may enact bans again. You have California, for example. Since 2001, California's 'safety regulations' on handguns have banned the sale of over 1,200 models of handguns. There's literally only a dozen or so models of handguns that can still be sold in the state and probably within a few years those will be banned. So whoever wins the presidency is going to determine whether or not handguns will be effectively banned in California.
BENNETT: Will you tell everybody where they can get your new book?
LOTT: It's available in most places. I think it's relatively inexpensive at Amazon, and they can go and check out our website at crimeresearch.org.
For over a quarter century, Dawn Bennett has been successfully guiding clients through the complexities of wealth management. Her unique vision and insight into market trends makes Bennett a much sought after expert resource with regular appearances on Fox News Channel, CNBC, Bloomberg TV, and MSNBC as well as being featured in Business Week, Fortune, The NY Times, The NY Sun, Washington Business Journal in addition to her highly regarded weekly talk radio program - Financial Mythbusting. Through prudent and thoughtful advice, Dawn Bennett has strived to consistently provide the highest quality of guidance.
About Dawn Bennett
Dawn Bennett is CEO and Founder of Bennett Group Financial Services. She hosts a national radio program called Financial Myth Busting http://www.financialmythbusting.com.
She discusses educational topics and events in the financial news, along with her thoughts on the economy, financial markets, investments, and more with her live guests, who have included rock legend Ted Nugent, as well as Steve Forbes and Grover Norquist. Listeners can call 855-884-DAWN a as well as take podcasts on the road and forums for interaction.
She can be reached on Twitter @DawnBennettFMB or on Facebook Financial Myth Busting with Dawn Bennett.